Loew's American Theatre

260-62 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

Yep. My mistake, Al. So much new construction in the area, and so little character and identity to distinguish one tower from the next.

bigjoe59 on May 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Hello Again-

as always i thank my fellow posters for their replies. while “42 Street” is one of my favorite books about Manhattan theater history the opening statement to the chapter on the American has always perplexed me. now the Rialto of 1916 is the movie theater which “replaced” Hammerstein’s Victoria. since i’ve read the Rialto was the first movie “palace” built in the Times Square area i assumed it was a brand new from scratch building but apparently not according to Henderson. so how much of the Victoria existed in the Rialto? for instance was the Rialto simply built within the gutted frame of the Victoria so all that was left were the four walls?

also considering Henderson’s thoughts on the subject how much of a older structure would have to still be present for the “new” theater not to be considered a “new” theater as she does?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

That is actually 11 Times Square, Ed. The NY Times Tower is one block south.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I’ll give you a factual error… The street view, above, points to the wrong side of 42nd Street. Swing that view around to the left to see the old American Theatre site, where the new NY Times tower has been constructed and now adjacent to the relocated shell of the Empire Theatre. The introductory comments should also be updated to reflect that the northern half of the Times building now stands on the site of the American.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Bigjoe59, Mary C. Henderson considers the Rialto as an incarnation of the Hammerstein Victoria since the building itself was not demolished.

bigjoe59 on May 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hello- while quite fascinating and beautifully designed Mary C. Henderson’s book “42 Street” contains a big factual error that i’m surprised the proof reader didn’t catch. the book is a biography if you will of the 12 theaters that were built on 42 St. between 7t hand 8th Avenue. the twelve chapters are arranged chronologically by the date the theater was built. therefore the American is the 1st theater discussed and therein lies the factual error. the chapter begins with i believe this statement-“the American has the dubious distinction of being the first theater built on the block and the first theater torn down”. this is not true. while it was the first theater built it was not the first theater torn down. Hammerstein’s Victoria right on the northwest corner of 7th Avenue and 42 St. was torn down at the end of 1915. the American wasn’t torn down till 1931.

TLSLOEWS on August 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Too bad no photos.

TLSLOEWS on November 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Marcus Loew had it going on.So did his buddy William Morris.

LuisV on October 22, 2007 at 8:44 pm

The office tower is being built on spec as there are no committed tenants as yet. Construction has commenced and, when completed, the tower will have 1,000,000 square feet and is expected to cost about one billion dollars. The New York Times tower across the street on 8th Avenue btn 40th and 41st has leased extremely well at very high rates. It’s too bad that a legit theater has not been included as part of the development; especially considering the history of the site and the area. The new Bank of America tower on W. 43rd St. will include a new Broadway legit theater in its base. The new Henry Miller Theater is expected to open late in 2008.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 27, 2006 at 9:33 am

The old American Theatre is listed in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide, an annual reference for roadshow managers. The seating capacity is: Orchestra: 671, Balcony: 593, Gallery: 800, Total: 2,064 seats. Ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50. The proscenium opening was 38 feet wide x 39 feet high. The stage was 58 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor and had both electric and gas illumination. There were 15 members of the house orchestra.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 21, 2006 at 8:12 am

According to an article in the June 20th, 2006 edition of the NY Post, this vacant parcel of land on the now-very-desirable eastern block-front of 8th Ave between 42nd and 41st Streets has been sold and will likely be developed into a residential/commercial mixed use tower. The current owners (Howard and Edward Milstein) bought out other family members to gain full control of the lot in early 2001 for $77.7 million. The property was valued at the time at approximately $111 million. A company out of Parsippany, NJ, named SJP Properties has purchased the lot for an undisclosed amount, though speculation is that the deal could top the 2001 price tag by three to five times. According to Empire State Development Corp Chairman Charles Gargano, any development deal would be subject to per diem penalties if construction did not begin within 12 months of closing. The following link only gives one a summary of the article, as the Post apparently charges a fee for the full text:

Post Article Summary

thespis on August 15, 2005 at 7:36 am

This would appear to be the forerunner of the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto, Canada.

Benjamin on June 18, 2005 at 5:54 pm

While I had read about this theater before (mostly in the Mary Henderson book, “The City and the Theater”), I had never really placed it on a “mental map” of the area. But recently I came across some interesting info about it (and some fascinating photos too!) in William Morrison’s “Broadway Theatres, History and Architecture,” and the theater has become a lot more “real” and interesting.

Apparently the theater had a somewhat unusual layout. It seems as though the main body of the theater — including the main facade and main entrance — was along 41st St. This was very unusual, as most theaters had their main entrance and most decorated facade on 42nd St., even if the main body of the theater was on either 41st or 43rd St. (The other exception to this “rule” may be the grand and beautiful 43rd St. facade of the Lyric Theatre.)

It also appears that the American had a third entrance (another tunnel entrance?) on Eighth Ave. This is also unusual. Although there appear to be many theaters that at one time had two entrances on two different streets, I can’t really recall reading about a theater that had three entrance on three different streets!

In the Morrison book, there’s a remarkable photo of the 42nd St. tunnel entrance to the American Theatre. At the time of the photo, neither the Lew Fields Theatre (later the Anco) nor the bank on the corner of 42nd and Eighth Ave. had been built yet. So on either side of the tunnel entrance are brownstones that still appear to be used as residences! In this photo, the 42nd St. tunnel entrance to the American Theatre actually looks like a large townhouse or small apartment house.

The book also includes a picture of a rendering of the much more imposing 41st St. facade of this theater. This facade looks like a mini-version of the Roxy that was built 20 or so years later. (When the American Theatre was built, it was the fifth largest theater in Manhattan.)

In the chapter on the Lew Fields Theatre (which eventually became the Anco) there is another wonderful shot of the 42nd St. tunnel entrance to the American Theatre. I wrote a description of that photo on the Anco page of Cinema Treasures.

By the way, the Morrison book is one of those inexpensive Dover paperbacks. (Brand new copies of the book were $12.71 each at the Strand Bookstore on Bdwy and 12th St. a month or two ago.) It also has many other wonderful photos of old Broadway theaters. Although the primary focus is on Broadway “legit” theaters, many of the theaters in the book also showed movies at one time or another and are thus listed on the Cinema Treasures website.

One Amazon reviewer said the book contained a good number of factual errors, which may be true since I believe I was able to detect a few myself. (But to be fair to the author, I don’t know how the number of errors in his book compares with the the number found in other books — all these books seem to have at least some errors. And the pictures alone are well worth the price, in my opinion.)

dave-bronx™ on June 13, 2005 at 1:32 am

I guess you could that this was Loew’s first twin theatre….

dmichel on May 21, 2005 at 9:19 am

Yes,there is a listing on this site for the Arena Theater on 8th Ave.

dmichel on May 21, 2005 at 9:10 am

I was wondering about that theater…I couldn’t remember the name.
I found a website for Hell’s Kitchen that identified the Old American Theater at that site..